Learn How to Clean a Trombone in 3 Easy Steps

You have finally purchased your new trombone and hopefully when you purchased it someone was able to give you a quick overview of how to clean a trombone and how to maintain your new instrument. If not, as a trombone player there are a few key points you should remember to keep your trombone in great shape.

Trombones should be cleaned periodically to ensure that they continue to perform at peak levels. If you fail to clean a trombone, then you will begin to notice a lot of built-up residue and this residue can negatively affect the sound.

Give the Trombone a Bath

When it comes to taking care of a brass instrument, you do not want to use any harsh chemicals. Warm soapy water is all you need to use to wipe down the instrument. Brass instruments should also be flushed out at least once per month to help avoid any corrosion and get rid of any dirt or debris that may accumulate within the instrument.

Before you begin to give your trombone a bath make sure you gather all the cleaning supplies. You will need the following:

  1. Dish soap
  2. ​Bath towels
  3. Trombone cleaning snake
  4. Mouthpiece brush
  5. Slide cream

(you can purchase the materials above separately or get them together in trombone maintenance kit)

You want to start by filling the bathtub with lukewarm water. Be sure that the water is not too hot because then it can damage the lacquer on the trombone. Keep the water lukewarm and add a few drops of the mild dish soap to the water as it is filling the tub.

The water only needs to be a few inches deep. To further protect your instrument, it is a good idea to place a folded up towel on the bottom of the tub for the trombone to lay on so it isn’t directly sitting on the bottom.​

Next, you will want to disassemble the trombone. A good point to remember is to disassemble and reassemble the trombone the same way every time so that you can maintain consistency and it gets easier and faster each time you do it.​

Place all pieces in the bathtub gently and allow them to soak for 10 minutes or so.  Next run the trombone snake through the inner and outer slides. Be careful to not force the snake all the way through the tuning slide, just insert the snake up to the bend and then remove. Next run the snake through the small tubing on the bell section.  

trombone cleaning snake

Lastly, clean the trombone mouthpiece with the mouthpiece brush.

trombone mouthpiece brush

When all of the components are clean, give them a good rinse, take them out of the water and gently dry them off. It is a good idea to let them sit on a dry towel for at least 30 minutes after you wipe them down to ensure that every component is completely dry.

​Once dry, reassemble your trombone and apply trombone grease to the main tuning slide.

Trombone Maintenance

In addition to periodically giving your trombone a bath, you will need to perform regular maintenance to keep your bone in good condition.

John from Hornsmasher provides some tips on proper assembly, disassembly and daily maintenance of a trombone.

How to Properly Assemble and Disassemble a Trombone

The trombone sits in the case in two separate parts: the bell unit and the slide unit. There should never be anything other than these parts and the accessories in the case at any time or the instrument could become damaged or dented.

To assemble the trombone, put the bell unit in the left hand with the bell facing down. Slide the tenon into the receiver and rotate the slide until it is one inch from the edge of the bell and turn it clockwise to tighten it. Finally, line the mouthpiece up with the receiver and push it in until it stops and turn it a quarter of an inch clockwise.

You should always assemble the trombone the same way every time to retain consistency and avoid any errors.

To disassemble, turn the mouthpiece counter-clockwise to pull out and clean a pipe stem cleaner to dry the inside and then dry the outside of the mouthpiece with a cloth. Next, loosen the slide lock nut counter clockwise and twist the slide unit until the two parts separate from each other. Finally, take a cloth and wipe down the surface of the trombone before putting it securely in its case.​

Trombone Slide Lubrication

There are three different products you can use to lubricate a slide:

  1. Oil - Usually comes packaged with trombones and is easy to apply and isn’t as messy as the other options. You also are not required to use distilled water in a spray bottle if you use the slide oil.
  2. Cream - Takes longer to apply and is messier than using slide oil. You will also need some distilled water in a spray bottle
  3. Specialty product that combines two lubricants

Upon taking the trombone out of its case, be sure to inspect the pieces for any damage that might have occurred. You also want to be sure that the tuning slide is easy to move. If it is not, you should use slide grease to lubricate it.

Remove the slide and apply a bead of the lubricant to each side and gently rub the grease on with your fingers. Distribute the grease evenly. Next, take the hand slide and release the slide lock. To release the slide lock simply turn it a quarter of an inch away from the lock tab.

Spray the hand slide with a small amount of distilled water and mist both inner slide tubes. Remove the outer slide to reveal the inner slide tubes and wipe off any old lubricant that may be present.

Use some slide lube on both of the inner stocking tubes and rub in with your fingers. Keep a paper towel handy so that you can clean off your hands. Work the lube into the outer slide and rotate it 90 degrees as you work it back and forth. Spray the inner tubes with the distilled water and then reassemble the slide and be sure to put the slide lock back in place.

That's it! Your trombone is now clean and ready to go.

Visit our Trombone Buying Guide for answers to other Frequently Asked Questions about trombones.